We have here the compromising of the matter between Laban and Jacob. Laban had nothing to say in reply to Jacob’s remonstrance: he could neither justify himself nor condemn Jacob, but was convicted by his own conscience of the wrong he had done him; and therefore desires to hear no more of the matter He is not willing to own himself in a fault, nor to ask Jacob’s forgiveness, and make him satisfaction, as he ought to have done. But,
I. He turns it off with a profession of kindness for Jacob’s wives and children (Gen. 31:43): These daughters are my daughters. When he cannot excuse what he has done, he does, in effect, own what he should have done; he should have treated them as his own, but he had counted them as strangers, Gen. 31:15. Note, It is common for those who are without natural affection to pretend much to it when it will serve a turn. Or perhaps Laban said this in a vain-glorious say, as one that loved to talk big, and use great swelling words of vanity: “All that thou seest is mine.” It was not so, it was all Jacob’s, and he had paid dearly for it; yet Jacob let him have his saying, perceiving him coming into a better humour. Note, Property lies near the hearts of worldly people. They love to boast of it, “This is mine, and the other is mine,” as Nabal, 1 Sam. 25:11; my bread and my water.
II. He proposes a covenant of friendship between them, to which Jacob readily agrees, without insisting upon Laban’s submission, much less his restitution. Note, When quarrels happen, we should be willing to be friends again upon any terms: peace and love are such valuable jewels that we can scarcely buy them too dearly. Better sit down losers than go on in strife. Now observe here,
1. The substance of this covenant. Jacob left it wholly to Laban to settle it. The tenour of it was, (1.) That Jacob should be a good husband to his wives, that he should not afflict them, nor marry other wives besides them, Gen. 31:50. Jacob had never given him any cause to suspect that he would be any other than a kind husband; yet, as if he had, he was willing to come under this engagement. Though Laban had afflicted them himself, yet he will bind Jacob that he shall not afflict them. Note, Those that are injurious themselves are commonly most jealous of others, and those that do not do their own duty are most peremptory in demanding duty from others. (2.) That he should never be a bad neighbour to Laban, Gen. 31:52. It was agreed that no act of hostility should ever pass between them, that Jacob should forgive and forget all the wrongs he had received and not remember them against Laban or his family in after-times. Note, We may resent an injury which yet we may not revenge.
2. The ceremony of this covenant. It was made and ratified with great solemnity, according to the usages of those times. (1.) A pillar was erected (Gen. 31:45), and a heap of stones raised (Gen. 31:46), to perpetuate the memory or the thing, the way of recording agreements by writing being then either not known or not used. (2.) A sacrifice was offered (Gen. 31:54), a sacrifice of peace-offerings. Note, Our peace with God is that which puts true comfort into our peace with our friends. If parties contend, the reconciliation of both to him will facilitate their reconciliation one to another. (3.) They did eat bread together (Gen. 31:46), jointly partaking of the feast upon the sacrifice, Gen. 31:54. This was in token of a hearty reconciliation. Covenants of friendship were anciently ratified by the parties eating and drinking together. It was in the nature of a love-feast. (4.) They solemnly appealed to God concerning their sincerity herein, [1.] As a witness (Gen. 31:49): The Lord watch between me and thee, that is, “The Lord take cognizance of every thing that shall be done on either side in violation of this league. When we are out of one another’s sight, let his be a restraint upon us, that wherever we are we are under God’s eye.” This appeal is convertible into a prayer. Friends at a distance from each other may take the comfort of this, that when they cannot know or succour one another God watches between them, and has his eye on them both. [2.] As a Judge, Gen. 31:53. The God of Abraham (from whom Jacob descended), and the God of Nahor (from whom Laban descended), the God of their father (the common ancestor, form whom they both descended), judge betwixt us. God’s relation to them is thus expressed to intimate that they worshipped one and the same God, upon which consideration there ought to be no enmity between them. Note, Those that have one God should have one heart: those that agree in religion should strive to agree in every thing else. God is Judge between contending parties, and he will judge righteously; whoever does wrong, it is at his peril. (5.) They gave a new name to the place, Gen. 31:47, 48. Laban called it in Syriac, and Jacob in Hebrew, the heap of witness; and (Gen. 31:49) it was called Mizpah, a watch-tower. Posterity being included in the league, care was taken that thus the memory of it should be preserved. These names are applicable to the seals of the gospel covenant, which are witnesses to us if we be faithful, but witnesses to us if we be faithful, but witnesses against us if we be false. The name Jacob gave this heap (Galeed) stuck by it, not the name Laban gave it. In all this rencounter, Laban was noisy and full of words, affecting to say much; Jacob was silent, and said little. When Laban appealed to God under many titles, Jacob only swore by the fear of his father Isaac, that is, the God whom his father Isaac feared, who had never served other gods, as Abraham and Nahor had done. Two words of Jacob’s were more memorable than all Laban’s speeches and vain repetitions: for the words of wise men are heard in quiet, more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools, Eccl. 9:17.
Lastly, After all this angry parley, they part friends, Gen. 31:55. Laban very affectionately kissed his sons and his daughters, and blessed them, and then went back in peace. Note, God is often better to us than our fears, and strangely overrules the spirits of men in our favour, beyond what we could have expected; for it is not in vain to trust in him.